Being involved in an accident with a tractor trailer or other large commercial truck can be one of the scariest events of your life. When you feel the force of tens of thousands of pounds of metal careening out of control, you realize just how helpless you are to protect yourself out on the road.
For obvious reasons, commercial truck accidents often result in substantial property damage and severe traumatic injuries. If you were recently involved in a commercial truck accident in Chicago, here are some of the key pieces of information you need to know:
Q: Who is Liable for Your Injuries?
Numerous factors can cause and contribute to commercial truck accidents, and this means that numerous parties can potentially be to blame. In order to determine who is liable for your injuries, it will be necessary to conduct a thorough investigation, and the investigation should ideally be undertaken as soon as possible. In fact, aside from seeking medical attention for your injuries, hiring a law firm to conduct an investigation should be your top priority after a commercial truck accident in Chicago.
Depending upon what the investigation reveals, parties that could potentially be liable for your injuries include:
- The Truck Driver – In many cases, the truck driver will be legally at fault. Driving a tractor trailer, 18-wheeler, or other large commercial truck requires extensive training and constant attention to the task at hand. Even highly-experienced truck drivers can make mistakes; and, while a mistake may be unfortunate, there is no excuse for putting other motorists at risk for serious or fatal injuries.
- The Truck Manufacturer – Truck manufacturers (and part manufacturers) can be held liable for accidents resulting from dangerous product defects. For example, if the truck driver lost control due to a brake failure or tire blowout, it may be the case that there was nothing he or she could have done to avoid the accident. But, you still deserve to be compensated, and in this scenario the manufacturer would be the party liable for your injuries.
- The Trucking Company – Trucking companies can potentially be held liable for accidents on two different grounds: (i) direct negligence, such as hiring an unlicensed driver or forcing a driver to spend too many hours behind the wheel; or, (ii) vicarious liability for the truck driver’s negligence.
- The Shipping Company – Cargo loading errors are common factors in commercial truck accidents, and the shipping companies responsible for packing and securing trucks’ cargo will be responsible in many cases.
- A Repair or Maintenance Shop – Similar to manufacturer defects, faulty or negligent work by a maintenance or repair shop can also cause a commercial truck to be unsafe for driving. This includes errors during brake jobs, work on engines and transmissions, tire replacements and re-treadings, and other types of service.
- Another Driver Involved in the Accident – The fact that an accident involved a commercial truck does not necessarily mean that an issue with the truck (or its driver) was to blame. If another driver crashed into the truck or braked suddenly causing the truck driver to lose control, then that driver might be responsible for your accident-related losses.
- Another Third Party – Yet another option is that some other third party is to blame. From the manufacturer of your vehicle to the government entity or contractor responsible for building the road, there are various other parties that can potentially be liable for your injuries as well.
Q: Should You Use Your Health Insurance to Cover Your Medical Expenses?
When you are injured in any type of accident, obtaining treatment for your injuries needs to be your first priority. Since securing compensation for a truck accident takes time, you can (and generally should) rely on your health insurance coverage to the extent that it is available. While your health insurer may eventually be entitled to repayment if your personal injury claim is successful, this is a matter for the insurance companies (and your attorneys) to deal with later – not for you to worry about right now.
Q: How Much Financial Compensation are You Eligible to Recover?
The amount of financial compensation you are eligible to recover will depend on a variety of factors, the most important of which are the nature and extent of your physical injuries. Under Illinois law, truck accident victims are entitled to seek just compensation for the financial and non-financial effects of their injuries, including past and future medical expenses, loss of income, pain and suffering, scarring and disfigurement, emotional trauma, and loss of enjoyment of life. While every case is unique, and while the outcome of a case is never guaranteed, individuals who have suffered severe traumatic injuries in truck accidents will often be entitled to sizable financial awards.
Q: What if Multiple Drivers Were at Fault in the Accident?
If multiple drivers (or other parties) were at fault in the accident, then each may have an obligation to compensation you for your losses from the collision. Typically, this will mean dealing with each party’s insurance company to establish liability and determine how much each company will contribute to your overall award of compensation.
Q: What if You Were Partially at Fault in the Accident?
If the evidence suggests that you were partially at fault in the accident, the effect on your claim will depend upon your percentage of fault. Under Illinois law, if you were 50% or less at fault, you are still entitled to compensation, although your award would be reduced in proportion to your percentage of fault (i.e. if you were 10% at fault, you would be entitled to recover 90% of your losses). However, if you were 51% or more at fault, then you would not be entitled to any compensation under Illinois law. With the potential for just 1% to be a difference between a sizable payment and collecting nothing for your injuries, it is absolutely essential to have an experienced attorney fighting on your behalf.
Q: How is Seeking Compensation for a Truck Accident Different from an Ordinary Auto Accident Insurance Claim?
As you can see from the information above, there are numerous differences between truck accident cases and “ordinary” auto accident insurance claims. Another notable difference is that, in truck accident cases, the trucking and shipping companies’ defense lawyers will often get involved and fight vigorously to avoid any liability for their clients. In order to level the playing field, you need to have an experienced legal team on your side.
Q: Will You Have to Go to Trial to Secure Compensation?
Due to the high stakes involved, truck accident cases are more likely to go to trial than cases involving two passenger vehicles. However, most cases still settle; and, with experienced representation, you will have a reasonable chance of securing a high-value settlement without the need to ever set foot in court. That said, if going to court is your best option (i.e. if the trucking company or the truck driver’s insurer refuses to offer a fair settlement), then you will need to be prepared to go to trial to win the compensation you deserve.
Q: Should You Get Your Vehicle Repaired or Replaced?
The first step toward deciding what to do about your vehicle is to get an estimate from an independent appraiser (not one recommended to you by the insurance companies). If your vehicle is capable of being repaired, then you should be able to drop it off fairly soon. If it was totaled in the accident, then you should be provided with the funds you need to buy a new car. This can be a tricky area to navigate, and our attorneys and staff members can help you through the process.
Q: What if Your Doctor Told You that You Will Never Fully Recover?
Being told that you will never fully recover can be devastating. Sadly, this is a reality for many victims of commercial truck accidents. If you are facing the prospect of living the rest of your life with the effects of a traumatic injury, calculating your future losses (including medical expenses, loss of future earning capacity, pain and suffering, and other non-financial losses) will be absolutely essential to ensuring that you are fully compensated.
Q: Is it Worth it to Hire a Truck Accident Lawyer to Represent You?
Yes, absolutely. While there are a number of reasons why, the simplest reason is that you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by hiring an experienced attorney. If you try to deal with the trucking companies and their defense lawyers on your own, your claim is likely to go nowhere, and you will not have any idea of the amount you are entitled to recover. By hiring an attorney, you can put yourself on a level playing field, and you can make sure that you do not unknowingly settle for far less than you deserve.
Speak with an Experienced Chicago Truck Accident Lawyer at Malman Law
At Malman Law, we represent all of our truck accident clients on a contingency-fee basis. This means that you pay nothing unless we win just compensation. To discuss your case in a free and confidential consultation, please call 888-626-6265 or contact us online today.